ZSA is proud to feature the 8 Questions Series interviewing prominent lawyers in Canada, aimed at discussing interesting perspectives and the challenges that face those in the legal profession. These articles, entitled “8 Questions With…” will be published on our website www.zsa.ca and in the ZSA Daily Digest, a daily compilation of legal news circulated by email to more than 1,500 legal professionals across Canada.
Emily Lee, Partner, ZSA Legal Recruitment, interviews Mark D. Cooper, Senior Corporate Counsel, Marsh Canada.
1. Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
After graduating from music school at the University of Toronto, being the conservative, practical type that I am, I figured I needed a “real” job. I toyed with somehow hanging onto my musical background and becoming a high school music teacher. I attended Teachers College and even worked as a supply teacher in the Scarborough high school system for a year. It was during that year of supply teaching that I confirmed being a high school teacher was not the career for me. I had a friend in law school and I thought it sounded interesting. I have always been an analytical thinker (there have been many studies linking musical education to analytical and critical thinking). I ended up writing the LSAT during my supply teaching year and, as they say, the rest is history. So, after a rather circuitous route, the law has ended up being a very good career fit for me.
2. What is the biggest professional challenge you have faced during your career?
As corporate counsel with the Canadian subsidiary of a large U.S.-based multi-national company, one of the biggest challenges has been balancing the great variety and volume of legal issues I deal with on a daily basis, while balancing the interests of a variety of stakeholders. My reporting obligation is directly to the legal department in New York, and my ultimate responsibility is to the public company and its shareholders. However, I sit in Canada supporting the Canadian subsidiary and deal directly with local senior management on a daily basis.
Another big challenge has been taking on a business role 2 years ago, as National Claims Leader of Marsh Canada’s claims practice, in addition to my legal role. This has required me to quickly learn a part of the business that I previously was not intimately familiar with. In addition, I have had to learn people management skills as I now have a team reporting to me. People management is something largely unfamiliar to lawyers working in private practice.
3. If you could change one thing about the practice of law, what would it be?
Although this is not unique to the practice of law, I often wish we were not effectively “on call” 24/7. One of the downsides of modern technology is that we are always reachable and clients expect a fast response. Lawyers need to make a concerted effort to control this to ensure we get the downtime needed to recharge. I am sometimes envious of those professions that are not so email dependent, and so when they leave the office they mostly leave behind their work until the next day.
4. What advice would you give to someone starting his/her career in law?
Try to meet with some lawyers to get a better sense of what the practice of law is actually like. For example, you may think you are interested in becoming a corporate lawyer; however, many law students don’t have a really good sense of what that actually means. When I started law school, I thought I would be interested in entertainment law, so I contacted a prominent entertainment lawyer with a large Toronto-based firm and he graciously met with me. I didn’t end up pursuing entertainment law, but this meeting was very beneficial in enlightening me to this particular practice area.
5. What was the last good book you read/movie you saw?
Well, I don’t really read for pleasure; since so much of my day-to-day work involves reading and writing, I don’t find reading for pleasure all that pleasurable. I do, however, enjoy movies I don’t like to work too hard for my entertainment! The last good movie I saw was SKYFALL. I am a big James Bond fan and I think Daniel Craig is a great Bond – dark and mysterious.
6. What is your favorite restaurant?
My first day working in private practice on Bay Street, I was taken to Jump (Commerce Court East) for lunch, and I have been going ever since. The food and service is consistent and I think represents good value for money.
7. Where would you most like to travel?
My wife and I visited Italy several years ago after she graduated medical school. It was a fantastic trip and we have wanted to go back to explore more of Italy ever since. We are planning a trip to Positano on the Amalfi Coast next summer with our kids, which we are very excited about.
8. If you were not a lawyer, what would you be doing?
Probably playing guitar in a rock band. I have numerous guitars in my basement including a Fender Stratocaster, a Fender amp and a collection of effects pedals. My wife is convinced she is going to come home someday to find a note saying I have run off to go on tour!
In his role as Senior Corporate Counsel, Mark is responsible for all legal matters affecting Marsh Canada Limited (Marsh Canada) including contract review and negotiation, regulatory matters, employment related matters and litigation management. In his dual role as National Claims Leader, Mark is responsible for the oversight of Marsh Canada’s claims consulting and advocacy practice. Mark also serves as Manager of Marsh Canada’s Central Region Claims Department. Mark is based in Marsh Canada’s Toronto office at Brookfield Place, Toronto, ON.
Mark joined Marsh Canada in 2007 as Marsh Canada’s first in-house Corporate Counsel. Prior to joining Marsh Canada, Mark was in private legal practice as a corporate lawyer with Macleod Dixon LLP in Toronto. Mark took on the additional responsibility as Manager of Marsh Canada’s Central Zone Claims Department in September, 2010, and in 2011 was appointed National Claims Leader. Mark also joined Marsh Canada’s Executive Committee in November, 2011.